Researchers argue over the root cause of abnormal behaviors. However, there may be several different perspectives from which to explain certain abnormal behaviors. Gaining a better understanding of one method might generalize to the ability to understand abnormal behaviors in a wider context. One psychological theory that offers insight into abnormal behavior is Humanism. The humanistic theory was created in the 20th century by a collective of psychologists who all had shared beliefs. Although not every humanist theorist agreed on every aspect of psychology, each one focused on the importance of the individual in the context of a larger world. In the humanist perspective the individual is a person and not a patient or a client.
Whereas the world is described as an unfair point of terror for the individual in existential theory, humanist theory is all about providing the individual who is suffering from abnormal behavior with better coping strategies through therapy (Wachtel, 2011). This requires a better understanding of the abnormal behavior and where it stems from. Often an outside perspective such as a therapist is the best person to guide the individual through this process. This is because not every person has a realistic perspective of their own behavior nor of how others feel about them. Instead, a person suffering from abnormal behavior is constantly fighting for identity in a place that they may feel is otherwise meaningless. Without love or joy or the other happy realities of life, it is possible to understand why some individuals suffer and this pain becomes manifest in their behaviors.
The humanist theory largely relates abnormal behavior to abnormal thought patterns. To defer these negative thoughts and help the individual gain a healthier sense of self, therapy should help people to see themselves as human beings in their own right. This involves giving credence to one’s thoughts and desires. It involves developing an inner respect for oneself and seeing a whole person in return (Allen, 2013). Therapy involves helping individuals to understand why they act the way they do. In addition, they must be given the right to seek out their hopes, dreams and motivations which cam all be used to promote treatment. Prior to this sort of therapy people with abnormal behavior may suffer from a fragmented view of him/herself. In addition, one who feels trapped and without a sense of free will want to lash out to demonstrate freedom. This is an inherent call that has the potential to manifest in abnormal behavior.
For example, a young child who cannot communicate to his or her parents may begin to harm him/herself or others. This behavior does not offer any positive reinforcement and instead demonstrates a breakdown in the person’s sense of self or safety. According to humanists, every person will eventually collapse if he/she and others do not agree to recognize them as individuals. What is more important than the actual reality of the world, or in other words an objective perspective is how the individual perceives the world. People suffering from abnormal behavior often see something different perceptually than what is truly there in reality. This can often lead to obsessions, paranoia, or fears that are not real. Whenever fear, isolation or misunderstanding is an every day part of a person’s life abnormal behavior will result.
While the humanist theory focuses on the individual, the sociocultural perspective describes an awareness people have for his/her surroundings. Social, cultural and other environmental factors have the ability to influence behavior whereas in the humanistic perspective the abnormal individual instead responds to a fear of the environment rather than the environment itself. There is almost a layer of misperception between the two theories that makes them similar to one another and yet distinct (Allen, 2013). For example, the sociocultural perspective depends on a clear view of how the environment affects the individual. In the case of abnormal behavior from the perspective of the humanist theory, the individual is not seeing the world from a realistic standpoint which is why one theory may be preferred for a certain individual. One who believes negative occurrences in life have led to abnormal behavior might benefit from the sociocultural perspective. Those who feel an inherent ‘wrongness’ inside themselves might wish to seek out a humanistic approach.
Although there are obvious differences between the two theories, they also share some similarities. Both consider the source from which abnormal behaviors may generate. Each attempts to explain them. Both also seek to help people better understand their own identities. In addition, each theory considers how people relate to the world around them. By seeking out patterns in how diverse people interact with one another both the sociocultural perspective and humanistic theory draw out the similarities between people and their behavior (Mruk, 2008). In recognizing these similarities better treatment strategies can be developed that incorporate a wider range of perspectives and have the potential to help more people (Allen, 2013).
To help assuage abnormal behaviors one must first understand them. The reality is that abnormal behavior likely develops from different places depending on the behavior(s) themselves. In addition, how the individual has developed in his/her past will likely have influence over which treatment perspective would be more beneficial for a specific individual. It is for this very reason that considering multiple theories and causes of abnormal behavior can be the most enlightening way to help suffering people and understand abnormal behavior.